Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old student, is being prosecuted for two felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12-16 years of age, after the parents of her 15-year-old girlfriend pressed charges. If convicted, she would be given a sentence ranging from probation to 15 years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.
The case is causing worldwide outrage, as indeed it should.
The seniors at the high school where I teach are excitedly preparing for graduation right now, but Kaitlyn, or “Kate,” is instead hoping she won’t be forced to go to jail instead of college.
Kate began dating “C.S.”, a fellow teammate on the basketball team, in November. The relationship was apparently well-known to both sets of parents. Both girls were students at Sebastian River High School: Kate was a senior and her girlfriend was about three years younger. Their coach made it clear that he didn’t approve of the relationship, and Hunt was kicked off the team.
According to Kelley Hunt-Smith, Kate’s mother, it was on February 16 that police arrived at the family’s home and put her daughter in handcuffs.
Think Progress reports Hunt-Smith’s belief about why the parents of C.S. sought to have Kate arrested:
They were out to destroy my daughter, they feel like my daughter made their daughter gay. They are bigoted, religious zeolites [sic] that see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.
As a final insult, the girlfriend’s parents appealed to the school board and had Kate expelled from Sebastian River High School. According to Kate’s mother, the Assistant State Attorney, Brian Workman, has offered Kaitlyn a plea deal of two years house arrest and one year probation. Kaitlyn has until next Friday to accept the plea deal or face a trial.
Law Designed To Protect Kids Being Used To Destroy Kate
This is outrageous. A law that was intended to stop adults from preying on children is being used to destroy a high school senior’s life.
These are high school kids. They date, that’s what happens in high school: boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy. Don’t these officials remember being in high school? These are young people exploring their sexuality. That should not be a criminal act.
Just this morning, one of my 15-year-old students walked into class carrying a dozen red roses, a present from her twelfth-grade boyfriend to celebrate the eight months that they had been together. It didn’t occur to me that her boyfriend might be a criminal.
As Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay-rights group, puts it: “These are schoolmates, teammates. I suppose every school in Florida should start letting high school seniors know they can face 15 years in prison if they turn 18 before the school year is up.”
Romeo and Juliet Law
Florida does have a “Romeo and Juliet” law that could spare Kaitlyn from being labeled a sex offender for the rest of her life if she is convicted.
The “Romeo and Juliet” law has certain criteria that must be met in order to be applied.
The victim must be at least 14-years-old, have consented to a relationship and the accused can be no more than four years older than their alleged victim.
The latest Statistic shows 241 petitions under the “Romeo and Juliet” law have been granted.
The Indian River County State Attorney’s Office has suggested a plea deal.
It would allow Hunt to walk away without having to register as a sex offender. She would have to plea guilty to a lesser charge of child abuse, spend two years on house arrest and one year on probation.
But that’s not the point. Kate should never have been arrested in the first place. She is innocent, and this is blatant discrimination.
If you believe that the way Kaitlyn is being treated is outrageous, please sign our petition demanding that all charges against Kaitlyn Hunt be dropped immediately.
Photo Credit: Free Kate Facebook Page